Myanmar Regime Makes Military Training Compulsory for Soldiers' Children

By The Irrawaddy 7 December 2021

Myanmar’s military has made it mandatory for children of its personnel to undergo military training as it seeks to prepare reserve forces, despite such training being against both Myanmar and international law. 

Since April, any male or female child over the age of 15 and able to hold a gun has been forced to undergo military training in various units across the country, according to parents of the children. 

“Among the trainees are teenage children. The military has made the training mandatory for all children old enough to carry a gun. Even my child had to attend,” said a sergeant from a regional command who has now defected.   

However, Myanmar’s Child Rights Law expressly prohibits providing military training to children with the intention of using them to serve in the military, as does the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, said one child rights activist. 

“It is against international law to train children for military purposes and to use them in fighting,” said the activist. 

The junta began providing military training to children of armed forces personnel after many youths chose to take up arms against the regime in April, following the junta’s brutal crackdowns on peaceful anti-coup protesters. Children were reportedly taught about discipline, how to march and how to handle small arms and light weapons. 

“All the children as young as 9th graders [around 14 years of age] were ordered to undergo military training. They conducted the training and afterwards the trainers said ‘It is OK if you have learned enough to shoot guns to kill people’,” said the mother of a trainee. 

Military training is not new to the wives and children of army personnel, said one child of a former soldier, but it was previously just an intra-battalion activity aimed at forging bonds among soldiers’ families. 

“I attended military training once during the summer holidays when I was a high school student. It was just an intra-battalion activity and there was no pressure. But I have heard that there is pressure now,” she said. 

The regime is also reportedly pressuring the wives of military personnel to attend military training, as well as recalling former armed forces personnel to duty by offering them higher than usual daily wages. 

Wives of military personnel have also reportedly been forced to do guard duty at battalions and divisions in Shan and Kachin states and Sagaing and Magwe regions, where the regime is facing increasing opposition from civilian resistance groups and ethnic armed organizations.

“They have provided military training to the wives and children of military personnel so that they can use them when necessary,” said a sergeant clerk. 

An ex-soldier who has retired from the military said on condition of anonymity that he has been recalled and paid higher than usual daily wages. “I was recalled and paid 8,000 kyats (US$4.50) per day. I was asked to do guard duty in the towns and at police stations and so on, but not to serve on the frontline,” he said.  

Since the junta seized power in a February coup, people have staged mass protests nationwide against military rule. Faced with brutal crackdowns, many young people have opted to join the armed struggle against the military regime. Now, the Myanmar military is in urgent need of reinforcements and appears to be looking to children to provide them.

In 2012, Myanmar signed a plan with the United Nations Myanmar Task Force to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, and to monitor and report on serious violations against children. 

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